Tag Archives: WWII

If it’s Tuesday, we must be Americans…

300px-Map_Mariana_Islands_volcanoesThe poor Northern Mariana Islands.  They’re way out there in the sea, cuddled up to a big seam in the earth’s crust. They were formed by the earth’s crust pushing up on the side of the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth, which means they are volcanically active (see red triangle volcanoes on map to left) and I dunno about you, but I’d have an uneasy feeling that at any moment I could be folded into the sea or thrust into the sky. Or perhaps melted by molten lava.

Mind you, that could make life interesting, especially today, the supposed end of the earth day.

Various sources say the main religion is Roman Catholic, but some old beliefs still exist. If I lived there, I’d sure wanna hedge my bets. I might even want to be an international criminal. It seems a goodly place for a hideout, all ready for the eventual explosion after the discovery by some James Bond type.

Their national song speaks to their isolation – it’s “Gi Talo Gi Halom Tasi” (In the Middle of the Sea). True. They also sing “The Star Spangled Banner”.

They are a Commonwealth (Or, lately, a Commonpoverty) of the US, which means they get to vote in presidential PRIMARIES, only, and they have one non-voting representative in congress. Didn’t some colonies a while ago get pretty riled up about this sort of taxation without representation? I can’t figure out this rule about voting, actually.  Are the Americans afraid the 52,000 citizens on the islands will pull their votes for guns away?

But enough of confusing politics, except to remark that everyone seems to have come here and taken over the islands at some point and then left. Spain, primarily. They arrived with Capuchin monks (as vs Capuchin Monkeys…) and such and killed off all the natives with disease, as they were wont to do, and then left, rather hurriedly. There was this misunderstanding about a boat, see.  Since then they’ve been called the Islas de los Ladrones, Thieves Islands. Locals said they were only borrowing the boat.

In addition to Spain, Germany, Japan and the US have all variously held ownership. The US used the islands as a launch site for the B-52 bombers that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Nice. That explains the three airports, no doubt.

Capuchin Monk

Capuchin Monk (not cute)

Apparently there are enough WWII relics scattered about to make it a war buffs hangout. Big big fighting here.

There are also lots of birds.

Lonely Planet speaks of THREE (3) things worth seeing, and of those three, one seems dangerous and another is crowded with tourists, mainly from Japan. Again, this puzzles me. Why would you want to go to a place where your people were slaughtered?

The chief industry other than tourism appears to be garment sweatshops, where Chinese and Philippine workers sew like madwomen to produce clothing for the US. The Islands aren’t held to US standards of minimum wage or immigration so garment factories are blooming like mould.

The locals, the Tao Tao Tano (People of the Island, now extinct) and the Chamorros (recovering  somewhat, finally, from the infectious wipeout) have had a hard

Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin Monkey (cute)

time. Chamorro, the language, is one of the official languages, so some parts of culture are kept alive. Not sure if they are still borrowing boats, though.

All I know is that they aren’t on my “wish I could visit” list. Now, if they had Capuchin monkeys, I might reconsider.


view of Bird Rock. You have to climb down wild rocks to see it.

A gentleman’s gentleman…

More losses – my Uncle Bliss passed away this weekend also.

He was part of that generation – that special generation of men who went away to war.  The big war.  Not that any war is a small one. I’m sure those in Libya aren’t measuring their particular hell against any other conflagration.

Uncle Bliss had a horrible time of the war; was captured and imprisoned in a POW camp as was his dad.  Bliss made it out, his dad never did. He was such a gentle man, so kind, so loving to his family and to ours.

The men of that era were, and are, something special. I’ve been honoured to know many of them, since they were my uncles, my father.  They were the men who got down to things. They worked, hard, all their lives.  They struggled to provide for families during times of hardship, but most of them did so without murmur, without expectations.  They were gentlemen, caring for their own and for the communities they lived in, often members of groups like Kiwanis or Knights of Columbus or Rotary or whatever, spending a goodly lot  of their time giving back.  Grateful for the life they got back after the war. Understanding of the privilege they had been given to see hell and then return from it.

It strikes me that many of them learned to be good men through the war, not that I’d recommend such a baptism. The men I knew, so many of them gone now, understood what is required to be a good citizen.  They voted. They were informed. They participated. They laughed outrageously and played with their kids and thought their wives were beautiful. I still remember watching my mother and father waltz at a public dance in the Seattle World’s Fair grounds – light on their feet, graceful and gracious. Ballroom dancing is so much about planning not to bump into another, about being close in an appropriate public way. These men knew about this in daily life. They made the world work while not trying to draw attention to themselves – they knew that service above all was the thing.

Oh, how I miss those gentlemen. The world is poorer without them.

Sending my sympathies to my cousins in New Brunswick for their loss….